The list of PC peripheral devices that will be displayed at this week's Comdex trade show reads like a gadget lover's dream.
It includes digital cameras, the first prototypes for digital camcorders, handhelds of every stripe, scanners, printers, flat-panel monitors, joysticks for gamers and options like Universal Serial Bus (USB) for connecting all of those "extras".
"From the peripherals' perspective, there's a lot more at the show than in the other categories," said Bill Sell, Comdex general manager, before launching into a breakdown of what he expects will be hot this year.
Given the plethora of peripheral devices, it's no surprise that USB is expected to capture a lot of attention, despite predictions just a few months back that the new cabling and interface technology might take some time to catch on.
If there seemed to be a dearth of USB devices earlier this year, Comdex should lay concerns to rest.
"From a connectivity point of view, USB is hot," Sell said.
USB is a cross-platform standard devised by PC vendors and industry leaders like Intel and Microsoft, which offers USB support in its Windows 98 operating system. USB can support up to 127 low and medium-speed peripherals on one bus, and is hot-pluggable so that there's no need to reboot to connect a peripheral to a PC.
Comdex visitors should expect to see cards costing $US35 to $50 that allow them to retrofit older computers for USB use and plenty of USB-compatible peripherals, many of which are expected out by the end of next year.
Although it's relatively new to the peripherals scene, it has been clear that something beyond USB also is needed to enable faster transfer rates.
Digital cameras are a handy way to quickly put photos on to Internet sites or to share pictures of the grandkids with grandma, but high-resolution digital images eat a lot of bandwidth when they're sent over the Internet and can slow down transfer rates.
Enter the IEEE 1394 architecture and its close kin FireWire, which takes the high-speed digital bus interface up to the fast transfer rate of 400MB. The 1394 Trade Association, composed of representatives from various companies, will hold forth at Comdex and more than 20 vendors are expected to show how IEEE 1394 standard peripherals can be connected.
Speaking of connectivity, modems, some of them also USB-compliant, will be abundant. 3Com and Lucent Technologies will be showing off 56Kbps modems, which were one of the big trend stories out of last year's Comdex. But there will also be a lot of talk about cable modems and Motorola can be expected to join in that chorus.
Home and small business
And because PC lovers increasingly find they have to have multiple machines to accommodate the entire household, home networking products will be out in force at Comdex, though exactly how that market will take shape is still anyone's guess.
Sell said that various smaller vendors will have home networking wares on display at Comdex and that those products are likely to also be of interest to small businesses.
Storage options for networks are going to be abundant. Compaq's Storage Products Division and Artecon are among those ready to chat with visitors about the wonders of storage.
Those browsing the Comdex aisles in search of other business products will find plenty of multifunction machines, as well as printers and scanners that are smaller, work faster and offer better resolution.
Also in the faster/better/more category, 19in flat-panel displays will be out in force and prospective buyers will find 15in displays from a number of vendors priced at $999. While Comdex press releases have dubbed that price "affordable", it's likely that flat-panel displays will soon cost even less.