PCExpo: ECommerce, not EHardware

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The day of the computer hardware convention is ending.

Not surprising, once you think about it. Computers have become commodity items in the minds of most business people, and PC Expo in New York City is meant for business people.

With a few exceptions, there’s no point in showing hardware for the sake of hardware anymore when you have the Internet. You want specs, pictures, reviews? You need no convention for that.

There’s no longer any need to persuade people, “You need to buy a computer.” They know that. What people still apparently need is someone to persuade them to buy things that aren’t quite commodities yet.

So you had handhelds, you had ecommerce, you had wireless, you had a peripheral here and there, but computers were for the most part being used to run the stars of the show, they weren’t the stars.

What I was wondering, though, is that if everybody’s running on Internet time and can’t wait one day, never mind one year, to keep up with the morphing cyberbusiness world; why is there still a need for the new stars of the show, too?

What’s the point of me going?

There are a few areas where looking is better than reading. Monitors, for instance. Video cards, for another.

There weren’t a whole lot of monitor companies displaying product (an amazing number of companies were using economy NEC monitors, but then they weren’t showing anything too exciting), but there were at least enough to have me tell you about them and maybe help you pick one in the next article.

Unfortunately, the video card people have pretty much left this expo. For some strange reason, business people must not consider successful fragging as an essential part of one’s resume. Isn’t a big part of business killing your opponent? 🙂 I guess the video guys pulled out because business people aren’t supposed to be playing Quake (at least there were vendors with software meant to prevent that).

Besides that, there just isn’t very much there in the way of hardware to interest the average overclocker.

Oddly enough, though, this year 2000 convention had me on the nostaglia track and thinking more often than not about the 1970’s.

AMD comes out of the closet. Is Intel crawling in?

Probably the most noteworthy change for desktop computers from previous years was that exhibitors were running Athlons and not ashamed to admit it, not even with Big Brother Intel nearby. Saw lots of mock Athlons at exhibits and placards proudly announcing what was running their machines. I think that’s a very good sign for AMD penetrating into the business market.

On the other hand, Intel suddenly seemed ashamed that they made processors and motherboards every once in a while. You had to look a bit to find some.

Is this just me?>

I’d like to know just who does Intel’s advertising. If you told me they hired some man-hating ad agency, I’d believe you. Is it me, or are men not portrayed normally in Intel ads anymore?

Let’s face it, the creators of the Bunny People didn’t get their inspiration from John Wayne movies.:)

I remember seeing one cut-out ad for Intel at a CompUSA where the men in the ad were an anxious tiny jockey, and this astronaut with a psychopathic look on his face that would have had him scrubbed from NASA the first day. The only normal-looking person in the ad was the woman. I’m very glad SOMEBODY looked normal and typical in the ad, but why ration it?

In this particular case, they showed a film of some angst-ridden corporate manager who did everything but crawl into a fetal position while having anxiety attacks (and came pretty close to that, too). How often do you see your boss contorting himself as if being fitted for a straightjacket? Even if he deserves to be in one?

Just whom does this appeal to?

My pet peeve aside, there was barely any mention of what still is Intel’s core business.

The promo for the video presentation said something like, “In the surge economy, fear of failure is replaced with panic over success.” If I were Intel, I’d get some of that fear of failure back. 🙂

Besides, Intel only had a dopey-looking Bunny Person keychain. AMD was much cooler; they had roach clips. Talk about nostalgia!

OK, OK, AMD didn’t CALL them roach clips; they were supposed to be business card holders. Sure. I took one look at this thing, and suddenly it was 1977 again, and I was saying to myself, “This would be a GREAT roach clip.” Haven’t used one in decades, but I’m sure the same thought would occur to a big chunk of middle-aged Corporate America. Bet Jerry Sanders remembers how to use one. 🙂

No, I didn’t inhale before writing that. 🙂

At least AMD wasn’t ashamed to admit their business was making CPUs.

An overclocker has a real problem at these pavilions. What questions could you ask that you’ll get a real answer to? Either you know more than the person there, or if you don’t, the employee dares not answer them honestly.

This is Linux, why isn’t this free?

I was bemused by the couple Linux areas. No freebies there, best I could tell. Everything was for sale, at quite capitalist prices. Get a 10-inch penguin: $20. T-shirts, sweatshirts, $20-25. Guess you have to make your money somewhere.

They had someone in a penguin suit meandering and falling down, which is what I thought Linux wasn’t supposed to do.:)

More nostalgia, old and new:

Novell did a fairly clever rip-off of a certain TV show which they called, “Who Wants To Win More Than A T-Shirt?” where they asked contestants Novell-related questions. That was a very popular exhibit, though I didn’t see any Novell questions like, “What company has had its share price tank 70% in the last three months?” or “What company is losing out to Windows 2000?” 🙂

Xerox decided to have ex-Olympians signing autographs at their exhibit: Bart Conner and Nadia Comenici, the latter another Seventies blast from the past. I was beginning to think the Brady Bunch was going to show up.

You have to wonder what goes through these people’s minds when they are signing autograph number 9,768. Do they ever think, “What am I doing here?” Conner seemed to have the earnest, helpful demeanor down pat; Comenici less so: I couldn’t figure out if she had a resigned or just sullen look on her face.

Finally, a place called Internet Appliance had some live entertainment, fellow by the name of Graham. He was playing the drums, nothing unusual there. At the same time, he was also blowing into miked trees.

Well, not whole trees, but parts of them, either some trunk or big branches four to six inches thick and four or five feet long. Looked like a pan flute on steroids.

The sounds that were coming out of this thing reminded me much of Moog synthesizers circa 1970. A little tedious after a while, since he had about three sounds, but how many interesting sounds can YOU make blowing into tree trunks? 🙂 One of the few exhibits where people walked away once the presentation started.

I left and went down a side street. I lit a cigarette, and noticed an offensive but vaguely familiar pervasive odor. It took me a moment to identify the source: a number of horses used for carriages in New York City.

Somehow I found going from corporate bull to the horses’ a fitting end to the day. 🙂

Monitors and other hardware to come.

Is there anything of particular interest to you you’d like me to look at? Write me.

Email Ed


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