From the April 24, 1995 issue of Smart

Special Report: Spring COMDEX Preview

By David English

This year's Spring COMDEX should be bigger and better than ever. Attendance is expected to exceed 100,000, topping last year's record-breaking 96,197. More than 1,000 exhibitors will display their computer-related products at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on April 24-27.

Since 1991, Spring COMDEX has actually been two shows: COMDEX/Spring and Windows World—though few attendees care where the one ends and the other begins. Both shows will be dominated by the eminent arrival of Windows 95. According to Dataquest, Windows 95 will be quickly adopted by the public. In 1995, unit sales of Windows 95 will nearly match those of Windows 3.1—at about 30 million units each—despite the introduction of Windows 95 no earlier than August. In 1996, unit sales of Windows 95 will grow to 62.9 million, while Windows 3.1 sales will drop back to just 15 million. Spring COMDEX will provide an excellent opportunity for retailers to preview Windows 95 compatible hardware and software and learn how Windows 95 is different from Windows 3.1.

On the hardware side, you can see desktop computers, notebook computers, expansion cards and PC Cards (formally known as PCMCIA cards) that are—or will be—compatible with Windows 95's Plug and Play standard. This standard allows Windows 95 to talk directly with the hardware and should—theoretically—do away with IRQ and DMA problems when consumers install expansion cards in their machines. On the software side, you can preview 32-bit Windows 95 applications from more than 25 different software companies at the Microsoft booth. If Microsoft ships Windows 95 in August—and it looks very good that it will—expect to see new versions of almost every major Windows-based productivity package during the next nine months.

Trend Lines
Another major industry trend that will be reflected in the exhibits at Spring COMDEX is faster Pentium PCs. Look for a bumper crop of PCs at COMDEX sporting Intel's new 120-MHz Pentium processor. Hewlett-Packard, Digital Research, AST and Advanced Logic Research should be demonstrating their systems with the new chip. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that vendors will be publicly showing notebook computers with Intel's new Pentium processor for portable computers. Code-named P54LM, the chip is rumored to run at 90 and 100 MHz and have a lower voltage than current Pentium chips. Intel is expected to announce the chip late in the second quarter, so a lucky few may be able to attend private showings of P54LM-equipped notebook computers that will be officially announced in the third quarter. All attendees will have a chance to see several new 75-MHz Pentium notebooks that were not shown publicly at Fall COMDEX.

PC Cards and notebook computers equipped with PC Card slots have surged in popularity in the last two years. According to BIS, the total shipments of PC Cards reached 671,000 in 1993, and jumped to 2.6 million in 1994. BIS estimates that 1995 will see the total shipments of PC Cards reach 5.7 million. The total shipments of PC Card equipped computers should reach 4.7 million this year, up from 3.2 million in 1994 and 1.4 million in 1993. At Spring COMDEX, you'll have a difficult time finding a notebook computer that doesn't have at least one PC Card slot. On the card side, you can see an increasing number of PC Cards that combine more than one function on a single card, such as combined modem and network cards and combined sound and SCSI cards. COMDEX should also bring out a few desktop PCs with a PC Card slot, as well as a growing number of add-on drives that offer one or more PC Card slots for desktop computers.

Looking back on 1995, we're likely to see this as the year that the Internet became commercial. If you're wondering how your store can take advantage of the information highway, Spring COMDEX may have the answer with several Internet-specific areas. COMDEX/I-Way and The Internet Experience will offer hands-on workstations and trainers who can answer your questions about what you need to get on the Internet and why you need to be on it. The Communications Showcase will feature vendors with products in such Internet-related areas as videoconferencing and wireless communications.

Spring COMDEX will also include an MPEG Pavilion to highlight the growing influence of this powerful hardware-assisted compression standard. This is the first time a major trade show has devoted an area to MPEG. The MPEG Pavilion is jointly sponsored by The Interface Group and OM-1 (The Open PC-MPEG Consortium). More than 40 companies plan to show MPEG products at COMDEX.

Finally, COMDEX will once again offer a Multimedia Showcase that features both multimedia hardware and software. This year the area will include 200 multimedia-related companies in the West Hall.

Inevitable O.J. Simpson Trial Comparisons

"The omnipresence of the O.J. Simpson trial, with its dependence on electronic presentation, may help stimulate corporate acceptance of multimedia."
Jack Berlin, president, Pegasus Imaging

"Even at Windows World, attendees can't escape the O.J. Simpson trial. The company's light pens are used by both the prosecution and defense in that case to trace and highlight on the screen."
Ron Zayas, director of marketing, FTG Data Systems

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