Simultaneous Comdex events in Las Vegas and Sydney have focused the IT world's attention on what many are coining the "post-PC era".
The trade show has moved from its traditional PC roots as a result of this shift in consciousness and this year focused on the power of the Internet, predicting life-changing advancements in the future with such slogans as Microsoft's "anywhere, anytime, any device" epitomising the concept.
And the devices are already here, with most vendors displaying for the first time Internet-only PCs and a raft of specific-purpose devices that move away from the complexity of the desktop.
Although he obviously has a vested interest in promoting Linux, Linus Torvalds believes this could signal the end of Wintel dominance.
Similarly, Compaq announced it would use alternatives to Intel and Microsoft in building its new range of iPacs. ARN wraps up some issues and products to emerge.
Scott McNealy, chairman and chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, pitched a serious message at Las Vegas Comdex: that software applications should be free, the PC is dying, and everything and everybody will be connected to the Internet.
"It's not just workstations or servers that are getting hooked to the Internet, but everything with a digital or electronic heartbeat."
Information is a utility and should be available as a service that is as easy to use and manage as the telephone, McNealy said. Software applications for businesses and consumers should all be managed on large servers that are managed by service providers.
"The new model here says there is no operating system industry and there is no applications industry -- it's all going free," McNealy said.
Intel on the run
Intel admitted at Comdex last week it is scrambling to catch up with demand for its fastest Pentium III processors but is currently unable to meet orders from its PC manufacturing customers.
The shortages affect Intel's fastest mobile and desktop Pentium III processors, which were released late last month and are being manufactured using a new 0.18-micron process, an Intel spokesman said.
Linux, Linux, Linux
Also at Comdex, Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux open-source operating system, spoke publicly for the first time about the new, secretive company he is working for.
Transmeta, he said, will give "full disclosure" on January 19. "We are doing a smart CPU, which will be the first microprocessor using software to do a lot of stuff, Torvalds said."
The industry rumour about Transmeta is that it is working on a cheaper and easier-to-manufacture microprocessor that will be capable of running on any operating system.
In Comdex PC news, Compaq announced it has restructured its commercial desktop division into two parts, part of a giant effort to focus on low-cost Internet PCs and devices aimed at corporate customers. The new division will develop the iPaq class of computers, as well as Internet appliances like wireless handheld computers.
One of last year's finalists at Comdex in Las Vegas, Australian Internet access device vendor Moreton Bay again showed its wares.
The company's recent releases include its WinPool software utility, which allows computers to share modems with other computers on a network. Users can connect to and use modems on the server as if the modem was connected to the COM port on their own PC. Its current shipping version, WinPool Multiline V1, supports up to 256 asynchronous devices on a single Windows NT server.
Acer debuts Net appliances
On display at Comdex was Acer's I-Station, a Windows CE device that Microsoft will distribute at low or no cost after customers sign up for a monthly subscription with its MSN Network, Acer says. This "Web companion" device lets people connect to the Internet (exclusively via MSN), use HotMail and MSN Messenger, and conduct online transactions.
The I-Station consists of a small liquid crystal display, an infrared wireless keyboard, and a 56Kbps modem.
Also on display was Acer's WebPhone, a device that runs on either Windows CE or Linux. This allows for one-button access to the Internet and e-mail, and comes with a standard phone receiver for voice-over-IP telephone calls. WebPhone users will be able to make free phone calls over the Internet to other WebPhone users, but not to people using standard telephones.
Quantum makes network storage a snap
Storage systems specialist Quantum has introduced its newest range of network attached storage (NAS) in the form of its 20GB and 40GB Snap Server products.
These devices could prove invaluable to the enterprise and still allow access to stored information if the main server fails.
It works for user groups of up to 100 people, which makes it good value for money, according to Quantum.
The 20GB version has a price tag, excluding tax, of $1600, with the 40GB snap-on coming in at $2880.