PCExpo: Yawn

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Last year, I wrote an article about this show, and the introduction to that piece is just as true for this year:

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 . . .?

They changed the name from PCExpo to PC EXPO/TECHXNY, but it seemed to me there were only two real changes.

The “E” word

Last year, “E” stood for e-commerce. This year, “e” stood for e-conomy, as in one heading towards the “r” word: recession.

The total exhibition area was somewhat smaller. Not a lot smaller, but a lot of the littler guys who had their little coffee klatch downstairs weren’t around this time.

It seemed somewhat less crowded too, again, not a lot smaller, but noticeable.

Maybe more of an indicator was the “job fair.” Fair? More like a dilapidated Ferris wheel at a rural crossroads. I’m pretty sure I could have counted all the body-snatchers on my fingers. Definitely if you let me use a few toes.

Another might be the lack of mainstream software companies represented. Microsoft was there, of course, but they had this big tent where if you waited on line, you could have the “Microsoft Mobile Experience Tour.”

Given my stationary Microsoft experiences, like Blue Screens of Death, and often only being able to quote Charlie Daniels when asked why Windows did or didn’t do something on their machines; I passed on going mobile.

Adobe and Powerquest were there, and there were the usual network programs, but regulars like Symantec, for instance, were no-shows.

A big and growing problem for computer hardware sellers is the lack of new and valuable mainstream software programs that need heavy lifting. Didn’t see much of that in evidence there. Not good.

The “Me” Word

It wasn’t just the economy that had changed; so had the observer.

It’s a rather bemused feeling when you go past companies you’ve lambasted.

Even more bemusing is going by places like the AMD exhibit knowing that most of the reps couldn’t answer what you’d ask, and those who could, wouldn’t.

The consumer in me was sort of frustrated in finding that anything I saw that I might want, I already had, and often better.

Shows like these may be fine for somebody coming up for air and seeing what’s out there, but when you’re on top of the subject every day, you begin to feel like you’re walking around for the exercise.

You know things are bad when you see Teletubbies prance around on a Sony monitor that doesn’t look any better than last year’s model, and you find yourself in the midst of a computer show having nothing better to think about than, “How can they tell the purple one is gay? How could you tell any of them were straight?”**

The only item I found interesting was a teeny, tiny optical mouse. It costs about $50, and is only 2-1/2″ long and 1″ wide. Seemed to work well enough, and while it might take some getting used to, I could see it as very useful for notebooks, and maybe for desktop areas without a lot of range room.

That’s not much. But for the average overclocker, there just wasn’t much of anything going on (even items like monitors an overclocker would be likely to buy didn’t seem noticeably better than last year’s). For almost anything that was there, you could find out just as much going to the company’s website.

I managed to walk through just about everything in little more than an hour. I finally actually sat down at a very cushioned, comfortable bench at the Intel cathedral (see below) and went through the show catalogue saying to myself, “There has to be something here.”

Extreme Tedium

Something undeniably new was a computer hardware website being represented at the show. Extremetech.com, of course. They were running a “World’s Fastest Geek” contest, the contest being how fast you could assemble a computer.

Actually a good contest idea, but the problem was they only did it once an hour. Given that the first contestant managed the feat a little more than nine minutes, that left a whole lot of dead time (if fewer dead crushed CPUs), with people just standing around waiting for people to come to them.

What was really odd was that Extremetech was the only ZdNet exhibit. Usually, they’ve had an exhibit where they distributed magazines, and promoted other ZdNet efforts. None of that this time around.

Well, you could pick up a copy of PC Magazine, but not by the Extremetech exhibit, not even inside the show itself. The only place they could be found was right outside the show, in bins marked “Industry Publications.” Weird.

Final Note: Intel vs. AMD

AMD had a no-nonsense, functional exhibit. Bunch of nondescript kiosks with a bunch of computers and a bunch of reps.

Intel, on the other hand, built a computer show cathedral. They had this large plaza with plenty of room for masses to get on their knees and worship the high-end servers on display, like a geek St.Peter’s Square. At least I couldn’t see any other functional purpose for it.

I must admit it was extremely well-done and even surprisingly (for Intel) classy-looking, but the plaza was mostly empty and useless, like Intel was saying, “Look how great we are. We can waste all this expensive space!”

Right now, Intel needs world-class computer architecture, not computer show architecture.

There seemed to be just as many people at the humble little AMD parish church compared to the Intel cathedral, maybe more.

Somehow, those two exhibits really symbolized the two companies, their outlooks towards the world and themselves, and the situation the two are now in.


**OK, Tinky Winky (I had to look that up, folks) does seem to have a predilection for women’s clothing and accessories. But there are plenty of heterosexual transvestites out there, too. Nothing conclusive like singing Broadway show tunes while wearing female garb. 🙂

Not like the other male Teletubbie gets mistaken for Arnold all the time, either. 🙂

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