On leaving Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, the taxi slaloms in and out of traffic along the highway at breakneck speeds before finally joining a seemingly endless eight-lane toll queue. The lack of conversation, unavoidable due to language barriers, becomes somehow more noticeable at snail’s pace. The driver must have noticed too and takes action. But instead of turning on the radio as you might expect he pulls a disc out of a glove compartment and before you know it we are watching the inappropriately named ‘greatest hits’ of Atomic Kitten, complete with karaoke-style subtitles in case either of us feels compelled to join in. Welcome to Taiwan.
The aisles of this year’s Computex show were just about as busy as the streets of Taipei that surrounded it, with an estimated 25,000 international buyers and 80,000 total visitors checking out the latest and greatest offerings of local manufacturers.
While LCD monitors were the hottest product range and digital home was the most significant theme, a close inspection of some of the smaller booths revealed a weird and wonderful world of gimmicks and gadgets you never thought you’d need but suddenly felt quite drawn to. These included Webcams posing as sunflowers, pens that double as USB devices, hands-free earpiece sets with retractable cords and dual-screen notebooks. In fact, just about any technology need was catered for in some section of the four halls.
With so many companies vying for the attention of those walking around, marketing strategies were always interesting to observe, even if they were often a little uniform — it seemed as thought the respective marketing managers had all either graduated from the same course or recently read copies of a ‘how-to stand out from the crowd’ manual. One small group of teenage girls dressed in brightly coloured plastic clothing and happily singing the praises of a motherboard vendor is cute — when a new set pops up at a different booth just about every 15 minutes the novelty soon wears off.
And the jury is definitely still out on the branding power of 10 football-headed youngsters in soccer strips or a long train of guys carrying empty hard drive cases on shoulder straps. Having said all that, the photographers loved it. Especially the plastic-clad beauties, who were frequently elevated to supermodel status as gaggles of snappers battled for enough elbow-room to get the perfect shot.
A favourite piece of advertising was the Cetac A770 ‘fully ruggedised’ notebook on display at the Mitac booth. This tough little cookie, according to its accompanying display information, had undergone military testing to make it dust, drip, drop, shock and vibration-proof. To back up these claims, there was a constant trickle of water running over its screen and forming a small pool among the letters of its keyboard. I didn’t see anybody bounce it off a wall or hit it with a hammer but maybe I just wasn’t there long enough.
Whatever your take on the madding crowds, the additional floor space allocated to this year’s show combined with the predicted record numbers of buyers and visitors were a definite reflection of a general feeling that things are looking up for the IT industry.
Furthermore, some of the set-top boxes and media adapters on view at the digital home displays suggested the next wave of opportunity could be a little nearer than most people have been predicting — at least in countries where broadband connections are widespread enough to take advantage of them. What do you think?
Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org